Customary landowner: SABL exploits human rights

The Special Agriculture Business Lease continues to exploit the human rights of the people of west Pomio in East New Britain Province.

Customary landowner Anna Sipona from Malmal Village in west Pomio said the SABL is a strange concept to the people of Pomio that promotes human rights abuse.

Representing the silent majority in the affected villages in west Pomio, Sipona said the SABL issue is not just about land and logging but about the human rights of women and children.

“Women and children are the biggest losers in this land grab and it is just another form of abuse.

“Our gardens have been taken from us, our freedom has been taken, we are dependent on the company and we are slaves in our own communities,” Sipona said.

Sipona added that west Pomio is where a big destruction has already happened since the introduction of SABL.

“The foreigners entered our villages without any respect and explanation and they forcefully came in and took our land from us,” she said.

The land in Malmal is under a 99 years lease and they’ve been told by the logging developers that it is legal State land.

In June 2013, the SABL Commission of Inquiry revealed how government officers have facilitated the theft of over 50,000 square kilometres of land from customary landholders.

So far, promises by the Prime Minister to cancel the leases, stop illegal logging and return the land to its rightful owners, as the Commission recommended, have not been fulfilled.

Quintina Naime